When it comes to hiking or backpacking, the value of durable, waterproof equipment cannot be overestimated. If you like rambling or camping across vast terrains over many days, you’ll know the chances are that the weather will change at the drop of a water-resistant hat.
The same goes for sports like rock-climbing, fishing, hunting, skiing and boating - when you’re out in the elements, you’re going to need a coat that will keep you warm and dry throughout the day.
Hardshell jackets are incredibly handy when you’re hiking, designed as they are for such an activity.
They’re manufactured from resilient, waterproof materials that are both breathable and help shield you from the harsh wind. They are also hard to rip and will not succumb to wear and tear for many years, even after thousands of uses.
When it comes to durable clothing, these are jackets simply built to withstand all weather and terrains.
But which hardshell jackets are the most suitable for the kind of hiking and camping that you do? What features and design qualities should you most be looking for in a decent hardshell jacket? How much will a high-quality hardshell jacket be looking to set you back in terms of price?
Well, hikers, fishers, boaters and campers need not fret, because we’ve compiled an in-depth list of some of the best hardshell jackets currently on the market.
We’ve then got a buyer’s guide that gives you a rundown of some of the most useful features that most hardshell jackets will have, followed by a section of frequently asked questions.
Top 5 Best Hardshell Jackets
OUR TOP PICK
Our first jacket is a very breathable one, allowing for ventilation of accumulated sweat and heat, meaning that you’ll be able to hike much further for much longer.
A lot of users do complain that their hardshell overheats in the summer weather, but this one will make sure that you won’t be sweating and drinking all your water supply before you get to your destination - introducing the Westcomb Men’s Apoc Jacket.
The main reason for the sheer breathability of this hardshell jacket is due to the Neoshell waterproof breathable laminate, which is a lot more porous than the standard Gore-tex material and reduces sweating by over 50%.
Not only that, but the Westcomb also helps keep out water, coming in a subtle and durable fabric. This is waterproof and windproof, the zippers are made of solid metal material and will not break after multiple uses.
There is also an aquaguard and hood for greater warmth, comfort and protection against the elements.
- This jacket is one of the most well-ventilated on our list, the unique laminate drying moisture on the inside of the jacket much quicker while keeping excess rainwater out.
- The composition of this jacket will keep you cool when you’re being active, which is crucial in keeping your body temperature down and allowing you to focus on your tasks without getting distracted and tired by the heat.
- The aquaguard zippers are resilient and do not rust after prolonged exposure to the wet weather.
- Some users have complained that these hardshell jackets are slightly too bulky and oversized.
When traversing snowy mountainous conditions, it is very important to have a hard shell to keep you warm and prevent your extremities from freezing.
Luckily, the Mammut Nordwand Advanced HS Hooded Jacket is adapted for the cold weather, designed to withstand the harsh forces that can be found in higher climates.
This comes with an exceptionally high waterproof rating of 28,000 mm, meaning that you’ll stay dry through the wind, hail and rain.
It is made of Core-Tex fabric with a 100% nylon face fabric composition, making it very well ventilated so you won’t overheat, which can still be a danger even in colder weather.
Even with this heavy-duty technology, the coat itself is still very lightweight at only 1-pound of weight overall.
The lightness and generousness of the cut also will not impede your movement, which is crucial if you expect to be doing a high level of activity.
- With plenty of material under the arms and in the shoulders, you’ll find that this jacket will not get in the way of your movements, allowing you to pitch tent, cast your line, climb a sheer rock face or whatever level of activity you plan on doing.
- The lightness of the material will make it easy to fold away and store in your backpack if the climate gets too humid.
- It has a high collar and a low back for extra warmth, giving you the ideal protection against everything the elements have to throw at you. Ideally, in a jacket, you’ll be wanting maximum coverage.
- There are also deep pockets in which you can distribute the weight from your backpack a lot more evenly.
- This jacket is designed with only the most extreme conditions in mind, so unless you're navigating the Andes, it might not be worth the investment.
Next up we have a very affordable brand of hardshell jacket, but one that still proves its worth even up against the more expensive, high-end models.
This jacket is made from Gore-tex Pro material that is designed to give you that added breathability up on the mountain ranges - introducing the Black Diamond Men’s Sharp End Shell Picante L.
The outer layer of this jacket is sculpted from 40D nylon, with a mini-ripstop backer that makes it extra resilient in harsh conditions, protecting your core against the frost and rain.
This jacket not only keeps you warm, comfortable and dry but will also reduce the levels of moisture that accumulates inside the jacket.
The capacious pockets in this coat will also be a boon for those hikers who would rather travel without a backpack.
This is perfect if you prefer filling up your on-person storage with the bare essentials such as a flashlight, and emergency whistle, a hand saw etc.
- The cut of this jacket is a lot more accommodating than a lot of the other jackets on this list, the hood alone has enough space inside it to cover a skiing helmet.
- The price - this is an extremely affordable jacket, which makes it perfect for casual hikers or campers who won’t be using their hardshell that regularly, but still want the high-end protective features that come with it.
- This hardshell jacket is also very lightweight, making it an ideal traveling companion that you can stow away easily in your backpack if the weather is clement.
- Some users have complained that this jacket isn’t as adjustable as some of the more expensive models. If you’re considering doing more active, longer duration camping, you might not opt for this hardshell.
This next hardshell jacket is a great choice if you want solid but basic all-weather protection.
It is built for colder conditions, the triple-layer Gore-Tex 40D fabric is reinforced in the areas that tend to give out quicker like under the arms and on the back.
This is the jacket that you’ll want to choose for regular winter skiing or other seasonal activities - introducing the Columbia Men’s Lhotse II Interchange Jacket.
This jacket is pretty much weatherproof, comfortably able to handle winds, snowfall, sleet and torrential rain.
If you’re the sort of person who relishes tackling the changing elements or roving through different terrains and climates, this is the companion you’ll want to be traveling with.
It has a very comfortable fit and cut longer to cover the upper thighs and head areas. You can also fit it with a harness for that extra backpack secureness, which will help you if you’re climbing.
- The capacity of this coat is extra-large, with enough room in the hood to accommodate a skiing helmet. If not, you can simply adjust it to provide your head with maximum comfort.
- The material of this hardshell is a unique composite, designed for protection against more extreme weather. We would recommend this jacket for campers who want to brave many weathers and terrains over several days or weeks.
- Another lightweight jacket that can be quickly rolled up and stashed in a backpack or rolled up in a harness. You will hardly notice that this is attached to your back, whether you’re out on the prairies or scaling up slopes.
- Perhaps because of the sheer range of features that this jacket has to offer, it is a little on the expensive side. This certainly won’t appeal to anyone who considers themselves a casual hiker or camper.
Best Hardshell Jackets Buying Guide
When you’re braving the coldest, hottest, windiest and wettest conditions, you’ll want a hardshell that is going to stand the test of time.
When it comes to the perfect materials and design qualities, there will be one or two things that will be essential to ensure a long wear-life.
Is Your Hardshell Jacket Waterproof?
You’ll need to make sure that your weatherproof jacket is made from all the right materials before you purchase it.
As you will already have noticed, most of these hardshell jackets are made from a Gore-Tex or Gore-Tex Pro exterior. Gore-Tex is very durable, breathable and waterproof, which is why it is often the go-to fabric for hardshells.
You can also get Gore-Tex Active, which is designed to be more breathable than its counterparts, although it certainly isn’t as durable as the Pro version.
You can also get jackets that use Neoshell and AscentShell that are made to last through higher, harsher altitudes. These brands of fabric are just as good as Gore-Tex and are often slightly cheaper.
How Durable Is Your Hardshell Jacket?
The best way to check the resilience of your hardshell is by looking at the denier on the tag, usually marked by a ‘D’ and a number.
The higher the denier count, then the harder it’s going to be against wear and tear. However, if the D-count is higher, then this will mean that your jacket will be a lot thicker, heavier and slightly less ventilated.
When picking out a durable hardshell, you’ll have to consider how comfortable you’ll want to be on the inside as well as the outside.
How Heavy Is Your Hardshell Jacket?
The weight of your hardshell jacket will vary depending on the thickness of the denier, as discussed above, although the difference will only be a few ounces.
You can still buy plenty of lightweight jackets that are very weather-resistant, you’ll just have to consider the range of weather conditions before laying your hands on one single jacket.
You could always buy two jackets, one for extreme weather and another for milder conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Better For A Hardshell To Have More Pockets?
Your hardshell can have a whole host of different styles of pocket: breast pockets, interior pockets, zip pockets, sleeve pockets and regular waist-level pockets.
The more you have will depend on how many items to want to carry on your person, as well as whether you’ll be wearing a backpack or not.
You can also get Napoleon pockets that are high on the chest and easy to access using the opposite arm. If you want a flashlight or compass handy, then we’d recommend getting a Napoleon pocket and keeping it there.
Interior zip pockets are also very useful to store bulky but lighter accessories such as gloves, hats, mobile phones or thermal skins.
How Important Is A Hood For A Hardshell Jacket?
Hoods are very important for your weather jacket, particularly if you’re thinking of braving snowy conditions.
The most resilient types of hood have a stiff brim that can withstand the repeated battering of the wind and snow. It should also come with zips and cinches to adjust their size, especially if you want to wear them over a helmet.
Without a cinch, a hood might simply billow around and cause you to lose visibility as you keep adjusting it.